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Starting the Conversation

Whether you’re a teacher, parent or friend, you are in a unique situation to influence the life of a boy.

But how often do you ask if he was feeling scared about an upcoming test? How often do you sit with and listen without giving solutions?


Do you tell him you love him when he loses a game? Hug him and let him cry? Have you ever cried in front of him? How often has he heard you say, “I made a mistake” or "I don't know" or "I'm sorry"? 

Boys learn love by watching you love, and learn resilience by seeing vulnerability and realness from the adults around them.


But how do you start these conversations when your parents didn’t have them with you? When your teachers dismissed your feelings or shamed you for your failures? When you don't relate to what your child is experiencing?


This section addresses how to teach what you didn’t learn.

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Page Topics

How to start these conversations with your boy.

The do's and don'ts of difficult conversations

Learn how making mistakes is part of the process. 

Learn to navigate emotions during these conversations. 

Here's what to do when conflict happens. 


Start Talking

Talking with kids about relationships isn't just about having serious dialogues. It’s about having fun, positive relationships with them that organically build trust, so those tougher talks feel easier and freer for everyone involved.


Share your interests and values! Ask open ended questions about life to explore children’s interests and values and see what you have in common. They may even teach you something!


Not only is this a great opportunity to build connections, but also to support their health, happiness and well-being by having them examine their world.


Often these conversations happen too late and are more often prioritized with girls. Don’t make the mistake of waiting, or avoiding these conversations. They are not a one-time event, but an ongoing effort to build connection with your child, discuss values, tell personal stories of when you were young and prioritize healthy relationships as crucial to the child’s success and health.

Start Talking
Conversation Tips

Conversation Tips

You've created the space and started the conversation. Now what? Here are some tips and tricks that you can use to make a great conversation even better!

1. Tell your story

Approach the conversation with your story and knowledge. These conversations are learning opportunities for them to get a glimpse into your life.

2. Speak from your perspective

A trick to doing this is using “I” statements. This sounds like "I feel..." or "I think..."

3. Be patient

These topics might be new or difficult. Being respectful means avoiding harsh language or attacking your child’s viewpoint. This is important because everyone has their own journey and story.

4. Take breaks

You don't have to get through everything at one time. Take breaks if needed and breath. You can always come back to a conversation on another day!

5. Embrace silence!

Give children a chance to think about the question and their response.

6. Give attention

These are the depictions of violence toward men through humor as normal and welcome. We see this in laughing at boys who are harmed or cry. Portrayal of violence by women toward men as harmless, casual or humorous (think: the "slap"). Asking men who are sexually abused how they liked it or to be grateful to have had the attention of a woman.

7. Show interest

You can do this by asking about their feelings, interests, and what they'd like to talk about.

8. Fiddle with something

You can do this by asking about their feelings, interests, and what they'd like to talk about.

Growing Moments

Growing Moments

We all make mistakes, but kids learn more from what we do than from what we say, and they learn most from highly emotional moments.

Consider modeling these behaviors for your child when you feel stressed, impatient, confused or lose your temper.

Apologize to your child. This shows them that even adults can be wrong, lose control and make mistakes. Seeing the impact of an apology on a tense situation is a step towards learning to take responsibility for their own actions.

Admit when you don’t know. Learning that an adult doesn't always have an answer can be the revelation they need to begin thinking critically on their own. But more importantly, it shows them that it is okay to be humble and admit that you don't know something.

Ask for other’s opinions. Or better yet, ask your child for their opinion on how to solve a problem. By helping them feel their contribution matters, you set them on a course to high self-confidence and self-esteem, which pays off as they grow up.

Be curious about differences. Difference can be uncomfortable and hard to engage with. How you engage with differences in front of your child helps them negotiate them too.


You are in the ideal position to pass on self-awareness, empathy and mindfulness to ensure your child can build their own durable support network.

Encouraging Emotional Intellience

Share your emotions. Share with your child when you feel anger, shame, sadness, guilt and disappointment and they’ll learn these are normal emotions. By seeing these negative emotions as normal, a child is instilled with the belief that they can overcome these emotions just as you do.

Ask them emotional questions. Ask them how they are feeling and give them the words to understand their own experience. You can help your child make sense of their emotions by describing how they impact thought and behavior.


Explore different perspectives. Explore books, movies and shows that include diverse identities and discuss the influence they have in navigating the world. Critically exploring not only why others are motivated to think and behave as they do, but also how their identities shape their lived experiences, expands your child’s appreciation for human difference. For example, learn about how society views black boys compared to their white counterparts and the negative impacts it has on their lives.


Model the strength of vulnerability. Talk to your child about the low points in your life, the really hard times where you wanted to give up. The way you take a moment to model vulnerability with your child shows them how sharing personal experiences can strengthen friendships and support networks.

Using Emotions

High emotional intelligence is the number one predictor of relationship happiness and life satisfaction.

Conflict is OK

Arguing with your child is inevitable. Sometimes children don’t like rules, avoid their chores and want to eat dessert before dinner. How you approach conflict sets an example for how they should too.

Prioritize understanding. Entering a conflict with the intent to first understand other's views, sets a collaborative tone. Once they feel validated, they'll often give you space to talk. In this way, resolving conflict becomes mutual problem solving.


Take turns. By being consistent, you can give structure and slow down a heated and fast-paced discussion. You may even find that they’ll begin doing it with friends, family and even you.


Be the first to apologize. No matter how small, take responsibility for what you did before pointing out what concerns you. They’ll learn that putting aside pride is the best way to reduce the tension of conflict and reopen a conversation. 


Stay calm or take a break. When parents explode, kids either explode too or withdraw out of fear or disrespect. If you feel yourself losing control, take a break and return to the conversation later. 

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Healthy Conflict

Modeling these behaviors gives them an example of how to do it themselves.
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